The pain and stiffness of arthritis often makes completing daily house cleaning difficult. Making some simple changes to your daily cleaning routine, however, can ease the strain on your joints and make household chores less daunting.
First, do not try to complete house cleaning chores first thing in the morning. Joint stiffness is often severe in the morning and can take an hour or more to reduce or go away. Take your pain medication, do your stretching exercises if you do them, and generally let your body loosen up before you try to do any house cleaning chores. Your ability to move as you clean will be much easier and you will find yourself needing less effort to complete tasks if you let yourself loosen up first.
Next, follow work simplification techniques by alternating heavy and light tasks. If you have to vacuum carpets, do a light task such as dusting first, then follow the vacuuming with another light task such as folding laundry. If you have a lot of work to do in a day, keep alternating heavy and light tasks in this manner. This method insures that the strain on your joints caused by heavy work is short in duration. At the same time, it allows you to keep working on other tasks that do not put as much strain on your joints.
Similarly, follow energy conservation principles by taking short rest breaks between tasks. Many people have a tendency to work and work until their energy gives out and they are done for the day. If you have arthritis, this can happen quickly, you're your work may not be done. Resting for 5 minutes after vacuuming, then moving on to folding laundry, then resting for 5 minutes, then doing dishes, then resting for 5 minutes, and so on, will allow you to get much more done before fatigue sets in. You will find that your energy will stretch much longer than if you try to push yourself to get work done without break breaks.
Another method to follow while house cleaning is to simplify jobs. This may involve changing the way you complete tasks. For example, instead of getting down on your hands and knees to scrub the kitchen floor, use a long handled mop or similar floor cleaner and stand to clean the floor. Maybe you will not be able to eat off your floor, but the floor will still be clean and you will save your knees, hips and wrists. Another example is to sit on a tall stool to do the dishes instead of standing at the sink. Let the dishes air dry, then put them away. You can complete another job while the dishes dry. This saves you energy, reduces pressure on your back and legs from standing, and takes strain off your upper body joints from drying dishes and putting them away.
Work saving appliances and ergonomic handled tools are another way to take the strain out of house cleaning, if you have the funds to purchase these products. Use a dishwasher to wash and dry the dishes. Vacuum with a light weight, self propelled vacuum cleaner. Use brooms, mops and scrub brushes with ergonomic handles that keeps your fingers and wrists straight as you work. These products are widely available at larger discount and department stores. You just have to spend a little more time looking at the selection of items to pick them out. Look for the items that are marked ergonomic.
Finally, if you get to that point where you just can not do any more, stop. Do not push yourself beyond that point. It is better to let those last couple of tasks wait until the next day, when you will be rested and ready to do them, then to try them done, training your body and making yourself so stiff and sore that you can not do anything else for the next two days. Know your limitations and work within them.
By following these simple techniques and adaptations, housekeeping does not have to be an overwhelming task. You will find yourself able to manage your arthritis and your home at the same time.
by Janet Meydam